NEWSLETTERS - Manaslu 2014

The Daily Moraine - Manaslu 2014 #115 September 2014

Manaslu 2014 Expedition

The Manaslu season is progressing well, except that I have been too busy to get around to writing a newsletter. As many of you understand I prefer to deal with logistics on the hill in front of writing about it.

Manaslu from BC
Manaslu from BC

This year we have a diverse international team with 13 members and 11 different nationalities.

Robert BARTON United Kingdom
Nick CIENSKI Canada
Anna LICHOTA Poland
Vanessa OBRIEN USA / United Kingdom
Hilde ORDERUD Norway
Hardeep REHSI Kenya
Xiaofei SONG China
Josette VALLOTON Switzerland
Russell BRICE New Zealand
Shinji TAMURA Japan
Mark WOODWARD New Zealand

Base Camp
Base Camp

We all met in Kathmandu on the 27 Aug and flew by helicopter to Samagon on the 29th. Although this is right on the heels of the monsoon we have always been able to fly on the planned date. When we first started our expeditions to Manaslu we stayed in tents, but now with a much better local economy in Samagon there are several lodges and we now sleep in the comfort of a lodge, but continue to cook our own food and eat in our own dining tents. The slow but effective acclimatisation program seems to work well, with trips to the moraine lake at the bottom of the ice fall that comes directly from Manaslu, the Monastery, a day trip to a local waterfall and another day trip to a side valley. Luckily we managed to do all these trips without getting wet. On the 2nd of Sep we all walked up to BC in 3 ½ hours, once again avoiding the afternoon rain. After one rest day the team then took a leisurely stroll to Crampon Point to look at the start of the route onto the glacier. On the 5th we had our Puja in fine weather and it actually looked like the monsoon had finished. On the 6th all the Sherpa team and all members went for a day trip to C1, with some of our Sherpa team working with Altitude Junkies Sherpa’s fixing rope through the more dangerous areas on the glacier. A fine and sunny morning so a leisurely snack as we all admired the view.

On way to Crampon Point
On way to Crampon Point

On the 7th I actually few back out to Kathmandu in order to attend a series of meetings, however expedition life went on under the close supervision of Woody and Shinji, with training / refresher sessions concerning fixed ropes, avalanche transceivers, and our new Soto cooking stoves.

Then the first rotation to C1 for acclimatisation where all the members stayed at C1 for two nights, spending the day between climbing up the fixed ropes towards C2. The only other team with members at BC is Altitude Junkies so it is only their Sherpa’s and ours actually fixing the rope up towards C2. This is always a thankless task but needs to be done. For the first time this year the Expedition Operators Association EOA is taking responsibility for collecting the money from all members via the various agencies in Ktm. This means that at long last everyone who is on a Permit actually pays $100. The various teams who then contribute rope, pickets or Sherpa support will then be paid for this at the end of the expedition. This is much more in line with what is now happening on Everest and is a much more fair system. Last year there was a surplus of funds which we spent on the purchase of 12 new ladders which we brought in to BC by porter. Last year we figured that the section of the glacier that we refer to as “The Hour Glass” was moving much faster and we expected that there would be more difficult crevasses to cross, and as it has proved we were not wrong and hence we have already used 8 of the ladders.

On way to C1
On way to C1

As many of you will have noticed, during these days there has been heavy rain and flooding in Pakistan and India as the monsoon is still being pushed up onto the Himalayas, so my prediction for an early end to the monsoon was totally wrong, and the consequence of that is that I was stuck in Ktm whilst the team spent several wet and miserable days in a very water logged BC. But eventually I was able to hitchhike a ride on a chopper back to Samagon along with our last member to arrive Josette. So on the 13th I managed to climb back up the hill from Samagon to BC, but by that time most of the team was back on the hill at C1 for one night, then up to C2 for two nights to sit in the light snow that was falling. The Sherpa rope fixers attempted to fix rope to C3, however it was too white out to be able to find the way so they stopped about 200m below the proposed camp site. Some of the team were not feeling so well due to colds, but today they have gone up to C1 to repeat the same program. In the meanwhile those who were at C2 went to the top of the fixed ropes in fine sunny conditions before returning to the dull rainy BC for a well-deserved rest.

Hydro dam
Hydro dam

The weather forecast is for improvement so tomorrow we hope to finish the rope fixing to C3 and also hope to establish the camp just below the col. We have taken a cautious route through a series of rolls in order to avoid the area that avalanched in 2012. I see that these ice cliffs are still active, and have triggered a similar avalanche but only a fraction of the size of 2012, which has come down the same path. Actually this is good for us as this has now cleaned away the monsoon snow accumulation, hence making it safer for all of us climbing. But also interestingly I see that the monsoon only dropped about 30cm of snow, so this also will make it easier for us this season.

Hydro generator
Hydro generator

Of course with all this rain and cloud around BC, and with us reliant on solar energy to power our radios, computers and the many various gadgets that members seem to bring on expedition these days, we are often short of power. But with all the rain we have many streams that flow beside the camp, so this year I decided to bring a hydro power plant. Phurba directed the building of a small dam with a pipe to the generator and so now we have electric lights and battery charging all through the night as well as the solar during the day. In fact there is almost enough light to have night time Volley Ball competitions…. well that is if it was not raining.